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Cranberry Health Benefits, Nutritional Value and Uses

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What is Cranberry?

Cranberries, also known as ‘karonda‘ (Hindi) are small acidic berries which grow on evergreen shrubs that are native to North America. They were first harvested by Native Americans and later by the Europeans. Since the dawn of the 21st century, cranberries have been touted to be super fruits due to their rich nutrient and antioxidant properties. Cranberries can be processed into juice, jam, sauce or candies. They are also available in a dried form.

Health Benefits of Cranberry

Lung inflammation: The anti-inflammatory effects of cranberry juice have been proven to be effective against the inflammation caused in the lungs by the influenza virus. A substance called nondialyzable material or NDM present in the cranberries prevents the influenza virus from sticking to the cells and hence preventing a flu infection.

AntitumorEffects: The anti-tumor efficacy offered by cranberry juice is attributed to the presence of polyphenolic compounds within the fruit. Studies have suggested that regular consumption of cranberry juice inhibits the development and spread of lung, breast, colon, prostate and other cancerous tumors. Cranberry juice contains a high amount of salicylic acid which can help reduce swelling, prevent blood clots, and eliminate tumors.

Scurvy: Deficiency of vitamin-C in an individual can result in scurvy. Cranberries provide high levels of vitamin-C, which is also vital for the body to make collagen, the main component behind the  healthy functioning of tissues.

Cardiovascular Health: Cranberry juice can help lower the risk of heart related ailments and assist in sustaining cardiovascular health. The flavonoids present in cranberries have antioxidant properties and may decrease the threat of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which the arteries are narrowed due to the build-up of fat, calcium, and cholesterol found in the blood. This obstructs the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the various parts of the body and may lead to potentially fatal outcomes like heart attacks and strokes. These compounds have been shown to delay and suppress the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and beneficially stimulate the blood platelets.

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Prevents Tooth Decay: According to new research studies, cranberry juice prevents tooth cavities. Proanthocyanidine, a chemical compound present in cranberries, inhibits the harmful bacteria from clinging to the teeth. These components inhibit acid production and protect the teeth from periodontal disease by preventing the growth of plaque. Good oral hygiene, along with the consumption of cranberries, disrupts the pathogenic mechanism of dental caries and generally makes for good dental health. At the same time, one should watch out for the soaring sugar content and the acidity of some commercially available cranberry juices – natural juice is always better! 

Avoid Respiratory Infections: According to conducted studies, cranberry juice helps to inhibit certain strains of the Haemophilus influenza, which is a common cause of ear and respiratory infections in children. The juice inhibits the bacteria’s hair-like structures, inhibiting them from adhering to the surface of the skin.

Prevents Cancer: Cranberry contains proanthocyanidins, which inhibit the growth of various cancer cells.  Studies have suggested that diets rich in flavonoids play a fundamental role in reducing the risk of cancer and cancer mortality. Cranberry juice contains anti-carcinogenic components that interfere with the growth of cancer cells, particularly those associated with colon and prostate cancer. According to studies, proanthocyanidins can stop micro-tumors from developing in the blood vessels. Regular consumption of cranberry juice prevents the rapid growth of tumors. Chemicals in cranberries also prevent the multiplication of breast cancer cells.

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Urinary tract Infections (UTI): Urinary tract infections refer to the existence of certain micro-organisms in the urine that exceed normal levels. These infections can develop in the bladder and cause cystitis, in the kidney to cause renal parenchyma, or in the prostate resulting in bacterial prostatitis. Studies have shown that the cranberry juice contains proanthocyanidins that possess anti-clinging properties, which prevent the bacteria from binding itself to the cells on the walls of the bladder. These compounds prevent these bacteria from multiplying and further and flush them out of the body through urination. Research shows that drinking cranberry juice regularly can help prevent recurring UTIs in middle-aged women and pregnant women. Regular intake of cranberry juice has also been proven beneficial for patients undergoing other treatments in the hospitals as a guard against the urinary tract diseases. It is beneficial in reducing risk of UTI amongst women undergoing elective benign gynecological surgery. Study also suggests that cranberry juice may even help in preventing pediatric urinary tract infection. However, cranberry juice is not effective in treating UTIs once you have the infection, and is only a preventative measure.

Strengthens Bones and Teeth: Although cranberry juice is a natural source of calcium, many juice companies add extra calcium to cranberry juice. Natural or otherwise, calcium reduces the risk of getting osteoporosis.

Cures Cold: Fresh cranberry juice is effective at fighting against infections. It cures sore throats and colds.

Good for Obesity: Cranberry juice is rich in organic acids, which have an emulsifying effect on the fat deposits in our body. So, it is good for people who want to shed those extra kilos.

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Prevents Kidney Stones: The high amount of acid components in cranberry juice prevents kidney stone formation.

Peptic ulcers: Peptic ulcers are caused by a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori or H.pylori. This microorganism attacks the protective layer of the stomach and duodenum, which is the first part of intestine. This may lead to further inflammation of the stomach lining. Foods rich in flavonoids, a category that includes anthocyanins, flavonols and proanthocyanidins, like cranberries, apples and garlic helps reduce the risk of stomach disorders, including stomach ulcers, by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori bacteria. An investigative study performed on a group of patients having that type of stomach disorders showed a 50% advantage over patients that didn’t consume cranberry juice. Therefore, doctors commonly advise the regular intake of cranberry juice to suppress the infection.

Uses of Cranberry

  • Cranberry is most commonly used for the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Cranberry is also used for kidney stones, neurogenic bladder (a bladder disease), to deodorize urine in people with difficulty controlling urination, to prevent urine catheters from becoming blocked, and to heal skin around surgical openings in the stomach that are used to eliminate urine. Some people use cranberry to increase urine flow, kill germs, and reduce fever.
  • Some people use cranberry for type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), enlarged prostate, common colds, flu, heart disease, memory, metabolic syndrome, ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), scurvy, inflammation of the lining around the lung (pleurisy), and cancer.
  • In foods, cranberry fruit is used in cranberry juice, cranberry juice cocktail, jelly, and sauce.